Q: What is a coronavirus?

A: Coronaviruses are a family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections, ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus is SARS-CoV-2, which leads to a disease informally called coronavirus disease 2019, or “COVID-19.”

Q: Where did the new coronavirus originate?

A: This new virus and disease were unknown before outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

Q: Should I worry about COVID-19?

A: The COVID-19 illness is generally mild, especially for children and young adults. But it can be serious. Roughly 1 in 5 people who catch it need hospital care.

Q: How does the coronavirus spread?

A: People can catch the virus from others who have it. The virus spreads from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, spread when someone with the virus coughs or exhales. These droplets land on surfaces. People catch the virus by touching these surfaces then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.

Q: What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

A: The most common symptoms are fever, fatigue and dry cough. Some patients have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms.

Q: Should I wear a mask to protect myself?

A: While most household masks are not perfect barriers to prevent spread of the coronavirus, health officials believe they reduce the risk. Masks are legally required in some communities and in any public place in Massachusetts, indoors or outdoors, where social distancing between people, i.e. at least six feet of separation, is not possible. Businesses may have their own rules that require patrons to wear masks.

Q: What is the incubation period for the virus?

A: The “incubation period” is the time between catching the virus and beginning to have symptoms of the disease. Most estimates for COVID-19 range from 1 to 14 days, most commonly around five days.

Q: Is there a vaccine for the coronavirus?

A: No, there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-2019. However, those affected should receive care for their symptoms. People with serious illness should be hospitalized. Most patients recover with supportive care.

Q: How do I avoid getting the new coronavirus?

A: Health officials say that the best way to prevent the virus, much like other respiratory diseases, is to avoid exposure to it. Specifically, they recommend: Washing your hands with soap and warm water, or use an alcohol-based gel or sanitizer; Cleaning things that are frequently touched (like doorknobs and countertops) with household cleaning wipes; Not touching your eyes, nose and mouth; Covering your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing. Use a tissue or inner elbow, not your hands.

Q: What do I do if I get sick?

A: If you’re sick, stay home to avoid contact with others. Also, have a plan for how to take care of family and loved ones if the virus starts spreading in your community.

Source: World Health Organization; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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